Downtown Eugene

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Organic increase in density

Many City planners possess a strong desire for increased density. I resist it, not because density is bad, but because the push for it, from the top, is enormously destructive. In Eugene's situation, it's wasteful to tear down empty buildings, when people are homeless, and activities cannot find space; and it's especially wasteful to tear down occupied buildings just because they don't meet some ideal. When there are hundreds of thousands of empty square feet, and massive craters in the ground, it's immoral to consider polishing the morphology of space that currently provides real benefit to real people.

That said -- because it is the most important thing -- this is how a humane, organic approach leads to an increase in density:

1. Let's start with the people and organizations already downtown.
2. Let's give them the security to continue their operations downtown.
3. Let's encourage them to expand their offerings and improve their operations downtown.
4. Let's encourage them to build upon their existing alliances, draw more activity downtown, and initiate more cooperative relationships, with the largest possible number of citizens, so that the largest number of people have an interest in making downtown more alive.
5. Let's offer them founding membership in a Downtown Collective of Tenants, charged with filling the remaining space downtown.
6. As the empty space is 'programmed' with people, events, businesses and organizations, the new tenants are also offered membership in the collective.
7. The collective's success is monitored by the City Council. Measurement and evaluation of participation, visits, and self-sufficiency are important.
8. The collective manages properties downtown bought by the City, placed into a trust for this self-management process.
9. The collective is given financial assistance to increase life downtown.
10. The collective is charged with concentrating on the biggest problems first: they must determine these priorities, and address them. For example, the empty storefronts and the holes in the ground are among the top spatial priorities. But solutions to these problems should also address the most pressing needs of people, including the social and environmental issues of our time.
11. When the spaces are filled, and the energy is high, such that growth is accelerating, the collective will have the power to incrementally make density increases in the buildings downtown. But, it's very important, for organic growth, that the life, the energy, drives the increase in density through new construction. Creating the density first, as a top-down plan, will result in dead, purposeless space.


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